Social Innovation Labs are changing the way we tackle problems and identify opportunities. The Government of New Brunswick recognized the potential for social innovation labs to bring out-of-the-box solutions and opportunities to the province in its recently released NB Economic Growth Plan.
New Brunswick’s public, social innovation lab has been branded NouLAB. It helps innovators within public and not-for-profit spheres to collaborate and to address our most pressing social, environmental, and economic challenges. NouLAB is making the change process smarter by connecting people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets, bringing them together to focus on pressing issues, and helping them to uncover a pathway to impactful and unexpected change. Many of the participants from last year’s cohort felt this first-hand, and are now strong proponents of NouLAB’s approach. “NouLAB really makes you not jump to conclusions and to frame the issue and challenge in a better picture of the problem before jumping to solutions. This has been very beneficial to our department.” Food lab participant Laurie-Anne Patenaude, Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.
Last year seven teams participated in the NouLAB Academy working on issues such as newcomer employment, food security, rural revitalization, adult literacy, social housing, healthy aging, and wellness. All of the teams gained a new perspective on the problem and many are now working on new and exciting initiatives that are being implemented in communities throughout the province. The food lab and rural lab came together to develop an accelerator to help new businesses and new farmers at a rural innovation campus near Sussex, NB. Food Lab participant Amanda Wildman (Executive Director of the NB Farmers Union) said that “It was really helpful and clarified what a monumental challenge this is to take on and understanding pockets of resistance. It was very enlightening to learn about barriers to purchasing local food and new entrants in the farming.”
The newcomer employment team is working with the business community to develop a newcomer mentorship program that is unique within the province of New Brunswick. Alex LeBlanc, newcomer employment team member and Executive Director NB Multicultural Council shares his experience with NouLAB, “Meaningful solutions will not happen in silos. We need different parts of the system to be involved and learning together. This learning is very important to understanding the problem and bringing many ideas to the table. Everyone needs to be invested in learning.”